Facebook Tweaks Ad Targeting Process in Light of Anti-Semitic Category Controversy

Facebook has temporarily overhauled the way organizations can buy advertisements in light of controversy over anti-Semitic ad categories discovered earlier this week by news organization ProPublica.

The social network said late Thursday that marketers will no longer be able to buy targeted ads based on people’s self-reported interests or other characteristics until it can ensure that its advertising platform isn’t “used for discriminatory purposes.”

The ProPublica article, published Thursday, revealed how advertisers could purchase targeted ads based on anti-Semitic terms that Facebook (FB) users self-identified with in their user profiles. These included terms like “NaziParty,” how to burn jews,” and “jew hater.”

Facebook’s advertisement system automatically created the offensive targeted advertising categories after enough Facebook users apparently added those terms to their profiles. The social network said it immediately removed the offensive categories and would do a better job monitoring its advertising system after being approached by ProPublica.

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“Keeping our community safe is critical to our mission,” Facebook said in a statement. “And to help ensure that targeting is not used for discriminatory purposes, we are removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue.”

Facebook has attempted to minimize the extent that advertisers were able to buy discriminatory ads, and said that “the number of people in these segments was incredibly low, an extremely small number of people were targeted in these campaigns.”

Still, the fact that the social network is removing the ability for organizations to buy targeted ads underscores the significance of advertising system’s design flaws.

Last week, Facebook disclosed that a Russia-based organization purchased controversial advertising related to topics like race and gay rights in order to influence U.S. voters during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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